SCBWI WWA Illustrator Show: prep, choose & frame

©Tina Hoggatt 2013

©Tina Hoggatt 2013

This is the illustration of mine chosen to be included in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Western Washington illustrator exhibit, opening in a few short weeks on October 10. I made the painting as part of preparing my portfolio for the summer conference in LA. I like this dog a lot, and as we move officially into fall I feel for this character. Like her, I just want to smell the lilies a little while longer.

As I send and respond to email, update spread sheets and follow up on details of the show I remain delighted and impressed with the work of the 66 other illustrators who will be part of this exhibit and with their passion for the work. So many different styles, levels of storytelling and focus. This small painting is at the framer’s and I can’t wait to see it again. This simple little painting brought the fun back into painting for me this summer and reminded me again of what I tend to take for granted: that painting is a joy and pleasure; that making the kind of images I want to make without thinking about the art world is a great relief and ought to be where I started instead of where I’ve ended up; that the world is full of stories to tell and I am so very happy about that.

The SCBWI WWA Illustrator exhibit will open at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle on October 10, 2013 and remain in place through January 8, 2014.

Put Sunday, October 27 from 2:00 – 5:00 pm on your calendar – the illustrators will have an open house with art making for kids and grown ups, book sales and signings. Hope to see you there.

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Poetry Monday: YES

I dearly love this poem by William Stafford, and many years ago printed it for our holiday card. My Mom and Dad thumbtacked it up in their spare bedroom where I saw it whenever I went home. It’s a good reminder, especially in the dark of winter.

Meyer lemons from Patricia's tree.

Meyer lemons from Patricia’s tree.


It could happen any time, tornado,

earthquake, Armageddon.  It could happen.

Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know.  That’s why we wake

and look out — no guarantees

in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,

like right now, like noon,

like evening.


William Stafford 


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Story Chairs audio sequencing & Gabriela Frank

Jack Straw Productions, lobby renovation

Jack Straw Productions, lobby renovation

Moe and I spent the afternoon editing and sequencing audio for the Story Chairs yesterday, and got the lion’s share done. It was exciting to see the renovation in the lobby actually underway. The contractors were just installing the original cast glass radios in the lobby interior, that date from the era when the building housed KRAB-FM, a big part of Jack Straw’s history. Though the installation of my project has been delayed, I did get to see the spot the Story Chairs will go. The new lobby and office will be light-filled and welcoming and is the first phase of a renovation that will see the exterior painted with graphics and new signage.

I am betting that it will be February before the chairs are installed and ready to be experienced – and that’s fine by me. It feels good to have the time to  honor all of the stories and music recorded, as well as the writers and readers, by tweaking levels, taking time to shift things around and think through the experience for the listener.

For this moody end-of-year weather I’d like to share Jack Straw Writer, Gabriela Denise Frank’s dreamy piece she recorded this fall.

Nepenthe by Gabriela Denise Frank

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Story Chairs: We had an awesome cat

Lynn and Tina at the cabin

Lynn and Tina at the cabin

I am in Oakland for the last Christmas in the house my parents built together. It’s time for Mom to make a new home, one where she will be surrounded by friends, can walk to to the market and to see a movie, and that will be easier to maintain.  All of her girls are here, in all of our unruly glory. In honor of the gathering I’m posting a piece about our lives on the mountain, the cabin in Estes Park where we spent part of most summers when we were growing up.

Ride That Bronco

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Story Chairs: The Man on the Train

Moe and I started sequencing the audio for the Story Chairs yesterday. Two hours of listening and thinking and guessing, turning to each other when we rediscovered something great and sitting quietly with a piece that didn’t quite fit with the other stories and poems, before we assigned it a home. We worked to keep too much sorrow and loss from clumping together and added sparks of joy and delicious voice as leavening to one or the other list. After the rough sort, and without the music, each of the two chairs has a little over an hour of audio. There are almost 60 pieces and they run the gamut of emotion and voice. I’m glad to have two young readers in the mix, some challenging poems and enough funny to knit it all together. Now I have to sit down and listen to all the audio again and make the play lists. This will likely happen after Christmas when I have some days off work. I look forward to those listening sessions.

I am especially grateful for the generosity of writers who recorded the work of others, those who couldn’t come to the studio because they lived out of town or couldn’t find time in their schedule. My friend Gwen Demombynes recorded a story by LK Gardner Griffie, who I know from Twitter and now her books, and gave it a life I hadn’t read on the page. Here she is reading her own story, The Man on the Train.

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Story Chairs: The First Bear

Two ceramic bears by Jeffry Mitchell

Two ceramic bears by Jeffry Mitchell

Yesterday I joined about thirty other people for a walk through of Like a Valentine, Jeffry Mitchell’s remarkable survey exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery. Five of us, including Jeffry, talked for five minutes about one work each. The afternoon was relaxed and intimate and a fine excuse to return to the show. The work just keeps on giving.

Experiencing the show again before the walk through, I thought about Jeffry’s love of the alphabet and its recurrence in the work, and about the steady return to other iconic imagery: elephants, flowers, Asian and American ceramic conventions, even the color pink. To me, this beloved imagery is like an alphabet, holding every possibility for telling his story, whatever it may be, just as the alphabet holds every story within its construct. The exhibition gives that sense of richness, the abundance of life offering itself up in beauty and loss, light and shadow, a tale spun from nothing and everything. The exhibit remains up until January 27. Run, don’t walk.

For my Story Chairs I’ve been writing a series of stories about encounters with animals, bears among them. This story is about the first bear I had a direct experience with. Some details may be slightly off – was I in a car seat? Was it me next to the window and not my sister? No matter – memory is a storyteller in its own right.

Listen to The First Bear

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The Great Dark and a bird sings

February, from The Months, © Tina Hoggatt 1999

February, from The Months, © Tina Hoggatt 1999

I’ve been working on audio all summer, preparing to install my Story Chairs at Jack Straw. It’s been a pleasure and a reverie, to write and record these very short stories from my childhood and adult life, about my experience with animals.

As we prepare to elect our President I feel open and hopeful and also as if standing in the dark. I remember distinctly the day Reagan was elected for a second term, how the landslide shattered and disillusioned me. Then Bush 1 and Bush 2, their tenure a kaleidescope of error and obfuscation and a diminishing of what I thought America should be. This is partisan politics, I know.

Regardless of how we all felt at the time, we survived. I survived, hope intact. And so, as we step into the Great Dark of winter, as our northern days diminish and we hover in the twilight of the year, I want to share my favorite recording from the summer. In it I tried to express the hope that is springtime in the midst of winter, the unexpected beauty of the force of life as I slogged through the last days of this season we are moving into now. However the election turns out, we will endure. And good things will come.

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October, begin again

Fall City zinnias

Fall City zinnias

When you make work for a lot of years –  writing, artwork, anything creative – you come to know that there will be down time. Life happens and you have to deal with it, or you’ve had a period of intense activity and the creative well runs dry. You might be in the bottom of a pit and having a hard time getting out, or maybe someone you love is in trouble or gone. But sometimes you just have to have a life.

I have come to trust those times without a lot of production because they are always followed by fresh starts. It’s as if we are the garden and we need time to rest and absorb all that nourishes us before new seeds can successfully sprout and come to fruition. For me, this timing often works out in opposition to the seasons. I often complete a project or body of work in the spring, and start something new or return to works in progress in the fall. But sometimes it’s hard to pick up the threads and get back to full speed. I do best when I go into the winter fully engaged, one reason I love NaNoWriMo, for its insane November effort that provides grist for the winter months.

So I was excited to put together a few days of pure enjoyment, made up of good food, walks and bicycle rides in the cool sunshine of late September, time spent with my husband and writing pals and just the right amount of focused work. Riding through the landscape of small farms near Fall City along roads edged with blackberries, inhabiting my body, I was purely happy. The fields were turning, though still full of pumpkins ripening, purple and green cabbage and kale and late summer flowers for market. I knew I could begin again after a summer spent away from major projects, that I was looking forward to returning to the enamel panels waiting in the studio and that hard-to-finish novel on my laptop, instead of feeling guilty for my lack of progress over the summer.

This too is summer’s bounty, the turning to fall and its new beginnings.


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Story Chairs recording

Pat Hoggatt recording at Jack Straw, Photo by James Chen, 2012

Pat Hoggatt recording at Jack Straw, Photo by James Chen, 2012

One of the great moments in my summer was working with my Mom at Jack Straw to record her story about learning to sail. She was in the first group of storytellers to record their short pieces for the Story Chairs project. I’ve been working on the audio for the chairs since July and hope to be finished recording stories by the end of September. Then Moe Provencher and I will sequence, mix in songs and music and get the audio ready for the electronics. Hopefully the lobby at Jack Straw will be ready for the chairs before the end of the year. There will be a celebration for sure.

Mom read beautifully – a natural, as Moe said. She immediately got the knack of picking up a flubbed line and of listening to the recording and knowing what she wanted to re-do or tweak. It was a deep pleasure to share the studio with her, and to hear her read aloud again as she did every day, nap time and before bed, when we were children. Hers is the voice I often hear inside my head when I read a book, measured and nuanced and reassuring.

Recording sessions have been fun and revelatory throughout the project: matching a voice to a story by someone who can’t make it to the studio; hearing how each reader’s voice is their own, or how they sometimes read a piece differently than I might. The writing is always transformed into something else when read aloud. The experience has reminded me again of the origin of stories, in human kind and in my own life – the sure promise and music of the storyteller’s voice, and the readiness of the listener to be utterly changed by their story.

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Story Chairs: Janel Kolby

Janel Kolby submitted this poem for my Story Chairs project, very short fiction, non-fiction, poems and songs for recording.  I am still actively looking for contributions. 


The tapping of my foot fought the rhythm of the train.

I wasn’t in the mood to be lulled to sleep.
My boyfriend and I had just gotten in a fight, and I left.
I didn’t know where I was going, I had nowhere to go.
My anger was deafening.

And then the doors opened.
A shiny man came inside.
His suit was shiny shark skin, and his shoes were shiny polished.
He reeked of smoke and gin.
But he was a man.
His nail-bitten hands clasped the pole in front of me.
His tie had once been neat.

The train started up with a metallic squeak.
The man lurched, hanging on tight,
and hungrily tore at a bagel,
powdering crumbs onto his feet.
With his last, hard swallow,
he looked frantically about,
and wiped away cold sweat.

The lights flickered, and I caught my breath.
The train squealed around a corner,
and we held against its force.

I felt him lean against my knee,
to steady against my form.
He was warm, he was strong.
Minutes, no, seconds.
We breathed as one.

The doors re-opened,
and he was gone.

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